Planning a residential conference can seem like a juggling act. It involves keeping several things steady and in motion at once. There’s the initial planning stages, finding the best venues and accommodation, budget, theming – the list goes on.
That being said, it is possible to plan and conduct a smooth and successful residential conference. Venuemob’s own Corporate Business Development team of experts share their top tips for planning a residential conference.
Set a realistic budget for the time of year and the city
When planning a residential conference, it’s important to remember that some things will just not be within your price range.
“Sydney is a very popular choice, but Sydney also runs at 95% capacity for the whole year, accommodation-wise,” explains Venuemob’s head of corporate business development, Victoria Damiani.
“If you want to host a residential conference in the Sydney CBD, you’re unlikely to secure a rate of less than $300pn during peak periods.
“If you have a strict budget, pick a quieter time of year like interstate school holidays or consider moving towards regional areas.”
Venuemob’s business development team predict 2018 residential conferencing will be all about the regional, coastal experiences.
“Organisers often think moving people out to the regional areas, hiring a bus and transporting delegates, will be more expensive than a CBD option,” explains Venuemob corporate business manager Brittany Goss. “But it can actually be cheaper than the city, and more spectacular.”
Choose the vibe of the conference
In the words of The Castle’s Dennis Denuto, “It’s the vibe and…that’s it, it’s the vibe. I rest my case.”
It’s important to set the tone, or vibe, of your conference early on. Once this decision is made, you can begin organising your event accordingly.
Informal, formal, relaxed, informative, collaborative, executive. Make sure your theme matches the conference.
Inject personality into your residential conference by carefully considering the location, activities, even the food.
Work with your stakeholders to create concise selection criteria
Basically, prioritise your must-have’s for a venue. Then use this list, along with your budget, to help you, or your venue finder.
Identifying this selection criteria will save you time when shortlisting venues. Think about: natural light, accommodation facilities, potential activities, evening events.
It’s also important to be flexible and organise your selection criteria preferences so you can compromise on the lower priority items in pursuit of the best value.
“Organisers can fall into the trap of being too rigid with their selection criteria, and may discount a venue which would have been a better deal, or a better experience,” explains Brittany.
Leverage your resources
Make the most of the resources available to you. Decide early if you want to use a PCO or a free venue-finding service such as Venuemob, or keep it in-house.
Using a free service such as Venuemob can help you save time and money, by outsourcing a normally time-consuming task to professionals who have a wealth of experience and extensive industry connections.
“Deciding this early is vital,” explains Venuemob corporate business development manager Sanna Salmi.
“That way you can have the PCO involved from the outset, and let them leverage the connections, knowledge or relationships you may not possess to secure a better deal, or experience.”
Site inspections are vital
Visualise your event in your chosen space. Although website images may look amazing, it’s important that you see and inspect the space and the whole venue.
“People often get hung up on the pictures,” explain Brittany, “but you need to be in the space to see if it will work for your event.”
It also helps to have an active imagination and keen eye. Think about where the registration table is going to go, what the break-out spaces will look like, even the distance of the plenary to the toilets.
Victoria also suggests paying attention to how the venue managers themselves respond to you.
“Work with people who are excited to host your event,” says Victoria. “Have they put considerable thought into how your event will look in the space?”
When venue managers are excited to work with you, chances are they’ll be detail-oriented, communicative and dedicated to delivering the best possible experience.
To keep things fresh, especially for multi-day residential conferences, include a few surprises. You don’t want to reveal everything right at the beginning – that’s a recipe for disengagement.
Think about adding a couple of surprise activities, guests or events to your schedule. A quick detour to the beach, or a guest speaker can be a good way to keep your delegates energised and positive.
By following these tips, you can avoid common pitfalls or mistakes when planning a residential conference.
And to save time, money and stress, enlist the help of Venuemob Business.
It’s free to use, and Venuemob’s corporate business development team have extensive experience, to help you plan the best possible residential conference.
Contact Venuemob’s head of corporate business development Victoria Damiani to find out how Venuemob can work for you: firstname.lastname@example.org